August 31, 2012, 4:28 PM

Twitter lets marketers target ads based on consumers’ interests

The social network is sharpening its ad tools.

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Twitter is sharpening the tools it gives marketers to target consumers with Twitter ad messages. The microblogging platform is letting advertisers push messages to its 140 million active monthly users based on what they like, which it infers from whom they follow and what they post about.

There are two ways marketers can target consumers. Marketers can select interests from a list of 350 categories that range from education to soccer. Or advertisers can create custom segments by specifying certain user names that are relevant to their product, event or initiative they are looking to promote. For instance, a movie studio promoting a new animated film about dogs, could select Twitter’s “animation,” “cartoons,” and “dogs” categories, or it could create a custom segment that targets consumers who follow Scooby Doo fan account “@Scooby__Doo.”

The move continues Twitter’s efforts to refine its ad formats. In July, for instance, the microblogging service began enabling marketers to target a subset of consumers based on their location, device or platform, such as iOs, which would enable a message to be seen only by users of Apple Inc.’s mobile devices. However, this is the first time that Twitter has let marketers target ads based on a consumer’s interests.

“By targeting people’s topical interests, you will be able to connect with a greater number of users and deliver tailored messages to people who are more likely to engage with your tweets,” wrote Kevin Weil, Twitter’s product manager, in a blog post. “When people discover offers and messages about the things they care about on Twitter, it’s good for both marketers and users.”

Twitter’s ad formats follow two formats. Promoted Tweets appear in a consumer’s timeline like any other tweet. Like a regular Twitter post, the messages will appear in the timeline once; as the shopper scrolls, the Promoted Tweet flows with the rest of the tweets in the timeline. Promoted Accounts appear on the right side of a consumer’s Twitter homepage under the heading “Who to follow.”

The move is the latest effort by Twitter to bolster its advertising revenue, which is estimated to hit $259.9 million this year, according to research firm eMarketer.

“We've always taken a thoughtful approach to monetization, and early results show interest targeting creates a better experience for marketers and users,” wrote Weil. “Today’s announcements are a big step forward for our advertising platform, and we can’t wait to see how you use them.”

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